Stephens City Mayor Joy Shull-Gellner ready to retire

By Ryan Cornell

Joy Shull-Gellner’s first days as a Stephens City council member were less than glamorous.

“On the western side of the town, there was an outhouse set on the edge of a yard that was elevated,” she said. “The yard beside it had been cut and there was a 2- or 3-foot drop, and the outhouse drained over the yard beside it. My first chore as water and sewer chairman was to go and inspect that outhouse and what it was doing.”

Those early days on the job are three decades in the past as Shull-Gellner, 73, looks toward wrapping up an illustrious career with the town next week. After 30 years on the Stephens City Town Council and four years as its mayor, her last day with the town is on Thursday.

“When I first said I would serve, I thought I would serve for a few years and see,” she said. “The years kept flowing and I kept enjoying what I was doing.”

The first female mayor in Stephens City’s 250-year history, Shull-Gellner said she’s enjoyed “every minute of it.”

She said the accomplishment she’s most proud of during her tenure has been acquiring the water rights to the quarries east of town in the 1980s.

Shull-Gellner will be moving three hours south of Stephens City to Smith Mountain Lake, where she and her husband, Scott Gellner, own a house and a boat.

“It’s a beautiful lake,” she said. “My husband loves to fish and I’m going to learn how.”

She said the council members and residents of Stephens City will remain dear to her heart, but there’s one thing she won’t miss.

“I taught school for 33 years and I’ve been involved in meetings all my life,” she said. “I won’t miss those one bit.”

Town Manager Mike Kehoe, who has served Stephens City with Shull-Gellner since 1981, said they’ve worked closely together, particularly on water and sewer issues.

He said Vice Mayor Linden “Butch” Fravel will fill the mayor position until the town holds its election on Nov. 4.

Kehoe, who will be retiring next June, added that Town Clerk Dianne McMillan will also be leaving at the end of this year.

“So the town is going to see a lot of changes,” he said.

Contact staff writer Ryan Cornell at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or

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